Going All Shabu Shabu At Hanaki Restaurant

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - May 26, 2010
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Hanaki manager Mark Mitsuyoshi enjoys shabu shabu

When Hanaki Japanese restaurant, a popular allyou-can-eat buffet in Manoa, closed its doors in March, most customers thought the change was because of refurbishment. But owners Spencer and Casper Liao and their daughter Angela Chen had something substantially different in mind.

“We decided to change the restaurant completely,” says Chen of the transformation from all-you can-eat to shabu shabu.

The reopening of Hanaki is as much about a change in concept as one in décor - inspired by the owners’ commitment to making a difference on the planet.

“We’re going green,” says Spencer Liao with a smile.

“My father loves to say that,” says Chen, “and the truth is, we did want to change the concept from all you can eat to something that’s more healthful.”

“The planet is short of resources,” adds Casper Liao, “and we just don’t feel it is good to waste food. The nature of buffet is that people want to try everything - it’s natural that they do - but that usually ends in waste. Shabu shabu is a more-balanced way to eat.”


At the new Hanaki, there’s little or no chance of waste. There’s a self-service system where guests choose pre-portioned amounts of food from refrigerated shelves to add to bubbling pots of house-made broth. All a la carte items are on color-coded plates priced ($2.50, $3.50 or $4.50) according to size and content. Soup pots come in a variety of sizes and with a choice of five different house-made broths.

“Even with shabu shabu that usually comes with a set menu, there’s sometimes waste because people don’t want everything they’re given,” says longtime Hanaki manager Mark Mitsuyoshi. “This new way gives guests the opportunity to choose exactly what they want - and how much.”

The broths include a hot and spicy soup base, miso, curry and a clear seafood broth that’s light and perfect for any of the dozens of raw ingredients on offer. A large variety of fish balls, pork balls, lamb, steak, vegetables and noodles are displayed alongside a condiment station that holds green onion, daikon, garlic, Chinese parsley, wasabi, hot sauces and more.

Hot plates on each table are the latest trend in shabu shabu. “Mark and I went to Japan together to study shabu shabu,” says Chen. “It’s a really exciting concept over there.”

Customers, as surprised as they may be when they enter the new Hanaki, seem to be embracing the concept. “They can experiment with different broths and ingredients,” says Chen. “It makes coming here different every time.”

Even the staff is enjoying the dramatic change in restaurant style.

“It’s much more interactive,” says Mitsuyoshi. “And people seem to like the selections. There’s much more here than on an allyou-can-eat buffet, because the combinations are endless.”

If you’re planning on making a visit, ask the staff to guide you through your first trip.

“Once people get the idea, they soon get into it,” says Mitsuyoshi. “And we all have our favorites, so we can help with suggestions.”

His personal favorites include pork in curry broth with cabbage and lots of mushrooms, but he advises guest to just pick what they like and go from there.

“There’s no right way to cook or eat shabu shabu,” says Chen, “and that’s what makes it fun.”

Happy eating!

Hanaki Shabu Shabu Restaurant
Manoa Marketplace 988-1551


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